Meet our March Scarlight, Denise R. from Southern California! Denise stepped up to be a Scarlight after I submitted a request for volunteers in my Scars to Confidence Facebook Group. I am extremely grateful for the wonderful support that Scar Power has received from the extraordinary women in the group like Denise! Our stories heal, and I am blessed that Denise chose to share her story here!
Here is Denise’s story below.
“My spinal cord injury began in 2001. I have Arachnoid Cysts which compresses my spinal cord. They were first discovered when one of the cysts ruptured in 2001 and I had my first set of surgeries. I fully recovered and was able to function normally for a time. Then in 2011, I began to have symptoms, such as numb arms and spasms in my legs and back. In 2013, I had a Cervical Neck fusion which resulted in the scar on my neck.
Unfortunately, in 2016 my symptoms got much worse. I had back spasms daily and was losing the ability to walk. Five back-to-back surgeries soon followed which resulted in me having two major scars on my back (Thoracic area) and losing all feeling from the waist down. I have since regained some feeling down my left side and a tiny bit on my right, but I still have to use a walker and deal with pretty significant amounts of pain. This experience left me with physical, emotional, and mental scars, but they have allowed me to grow. I had to relearn to walk 3 different times and was told to get used to being in a wheelchair.
Throughout my life I have had to overcome many obstacles. I was a single teen mom at 18, married a man that was emotionally and physically abusive, and had to face being single again [after the divorce] with 3 children. I later met and married a man who brought my self-esteem even lower. By the time I got the courage to leave I was over 200 lbs. and wore a size 18. Yet, I picked myself up and began to love myself again and kept going. The emotional baggage alone was heavy. But it made me strong and able to face the next major obstacle.
In 2011, I met a wonderful man who has encouraged me and who has been with me through the most difficult time of my life. Today I am walking with a walker, wearing sun dresses, swimsuits, and tops that show my scars proudly. I go to the gym and do yoga, and who cares if I use an assistive device? My self-confidence has been restored (sometimes it is still a work in progress), but I choose to keep moving forward.
I do my best to share my story with others to encourage them and empower them to keep moving forward, even if it is only baby steps, because they count too! Each day I am given is another day to help myself and others. I want people to know that scars are part of life, and we all have them, but they can empower us to overcome and help others!”
Questions For Denise
I asked Denise a few questions to obtain more insight on how she feels about her journey. Here is how she responded.
- Why do you want to be featured in a Scarlight?
“Because I have overcome and want to help others overcome.”
- How has your story shaped your life’s perspective?
“There is nothing that I cannot overcome and do. My moto is “You have to believe to Achieve.” My word for this year is Achieve.”
- What steps did you take and/or tools you used to overcome how you felt about your scars? If you have not yet, why?
“Prayer is a major part of my journey. Taking pictures of my physical scars and embracing them. Doing things that take me out of my comfort zone to keep pushing myself. I have also needed to take medication to help with depression for a short time during the early part of my journey, but have found that vitamins, diet and exercise provide a better way to keep going.”
- What is the most important thing that you have learned about yourself through your journey?
“That I am strong, and God is with me every step of the way.”
- What is one lesson that you can share with others that will inspire them?
“Keep moving forward even if they are baby steps because they count too. Learn to tell a better story.”
Thank you so much Denise for being willing to share your story to inspire and encourage all of us. I am so blessed to have you as part of my Scar Power Squad! Keep doing the wonderful things you are doing!
To learn more about Denise, you can follow her blog @ Embracing Life After An Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury.